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Netflix Reduces Physical-Disc Processing, Keeps Prices the Same

Warhawke Re:Alternate view (354 comments)

That makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Do you work for Comcast, by chance? Do you know how many evil corporations would kill to have customers like you? "Sure, they may have killed a significant chunk of their service that they already provided at a certain price threshold, but at least their prices didn't go up!" It's not bad customer service, it's just "not raising the price!"

about a month ago

New York Judge OKs Warrant To Search Entire Gmail Account

Warhawke Re:Warrants are supposed to be narrow (150 comments)

That's not completely correct. The Fourth Amendment was enacted specifically to prevent writs of assistance, which were commonly used in Britain to give law enforcement officers broad, nearly unlimited power to conduct searches for contraband or smuggled goods. The Fourth Amendment was enacted to prevent law enforcement officers from having this broad power to search anywhere and everywhere, even if there was reasonable evidence of a crime.

Part of the danger of broad writs or warrants is that (1) they unduly invade a person's fundamental right to privacy, and (2) the adoption of the plain view exception to the exclusionary rule will make you liable for anything the police uncover, whether it's related to the crime being searched for or not. So if the police go searching your hard drives for child pornography and uncover evidence that you bought some pot from a friend via e-mail, that evidence can and will be used against you.

You are correct in that a search may be so broad as to search for evidence of the thing to be seized. However, the presumption is and should always be tailored as narrowly as possible. Simply saying that the police do not know where the gun is does not give the police powers to search any property the suspect owns. The police may search his house and anywhere in it, but the boundaries must be narrowly tailored so as to survive constitutional scrutiny. In the case of e-mail, any communications with people not directly implicated or otherwise material to the crime should be excluded, as there is relative certainty that material information will not be communicated with these parties (for example, you aren't going to find evidence of child pornography in my weekly Mint financial statement updates or newsletters I receive). As such, it is likely that the scope of this warrant is over-broad.

about a month and a half ago

Police Using Dogs To Sniff Out Computer Memory

Warhawke Re:Amazoing (415 comments)

This is why I store all of my flash drives in a Milkbone box: hiding in plain sight.

about 2 months ago

Police Using Dogs To Sniff Out Computer Memory

Warhawke Before we go down the misinformation rabbit hole (415 comments)

Let's get this out of the way. Search tactics using dogs is always going to be prone to abuse. However, dogs have been sniffing out electronics for years now. Additionally, and this should be obvious, the dog isn't sniffing out hard drives that contain child pornography, it's merely sniffing out all hard drives. In this case, the dog was deployed as the result of a search warrant that undoubtedly allowed for the seizure of all electronic devices within the home. Use in this manner is much less controversial than using the dog to find the drive, thus establishing probable cause to bypass a warrant entirely.

about 2 months ago

FAA Bans Delivering Packages With Drones

Warhawke Re:The FAA lacks jurisdiction (199 comments)

The FAA has attempted to levy more than one fine against people. Pirker was just a high publicity case because of the fact the administrative judge overturned the fine. They have appealed that case and are continuing to issue fines in the meantime to other commercial operators. The FAA is also fining hobbyists as well (look up "Zablidowski"). All of these fines are based (poorly) on a 1980s-era Advisory Circular that sets forth guidelines for hobbyists. Now the FAA is using the advisory guidelines as actual law, as if it had passed a comment and review period, to enforce its fines. The theory goes that a commercial operator cannot be defined as a hobbyist, so the guidelines do not apply, meaning that no law exists on record for drone operation, therefore we can construe that the absence of law means the activity is prohibited. It's obviously legally ridiculous, but it's not completely far-fetched. Congress has authorized the FAA to regulate drones, and has repeatedly require them to write administrative laws for drone operation. The Congressional mandate even goes so far as to require the FAA write privacy rules, which I would like to keep the FAA away from my Fourth Amendment rights, thank you very much. But that is an argument for another time. The premise is that the FAA has the authority to regulate drones by Congressional mandate -- they just keep missing the deadline, and are using their absence of rules as an enforcement mechanism.

about 2 months ago

FAA Bans Delivering Packages With Drones

Warhawke Re:There is time. (199 comments)

Part of getting "ready" is ensuring that you are in compliance with the rules. Amazon cannot be "ready" if the rules are subject to modification, because they have nothing by which to comply.

about 2 months ago

US Supreme Court Invalidates Patent For Being Software Patent

Warhawke Re:I'm really missing Groklaw (220 comments)

No, this ruling essentially makes "on a computer" claims go away. The only way something can be patented is if it's sufficiently novel to warrant patentability; the Court in this case said that an idea performed "on a computer," absent any practical benefits other than the computer itself, is not patentable. Also, your frustration with the Supreme Court is unwarranted; SCOTUS has been very good about limiting patents in the wake of the Federal Circuit's pro-patent agenda.

Of course, you also forget that (according to Internet memes' interpretations of SCOTUS) corporations are people, too.

about 2 months ago

US Supreme Court Invalidates Patent For Being Software Patent

Warhawke Re:I'm really missing Groklaw (220 comments)

This ruling extends the basic rule of Bilski that you can't patent an idea to the computer. Essentially, Alice Corp. states that you can't patent a general idea simply by appending the term "on a computer." What the case doesn't say is that all software patents are invalidated. Rather, the software has to be more than just a generic business idea expressed "on a computer."

Alice Corp. was the assignee of several patents for mitigating "settlement risk" via software. Software claims in patent law usually occur in two parts: a method of performing the claimed function and a system for performing the prior claimed method. This basically lets a patent holder guard against people manipulating their way around the system or method claims to perform the exact same function, such as by using a remote server instead of a local hard drive, or querying before step A as opposed to after step A. Alice Corp. had both a system and method patent for mitigating settlement risk. Specifically, the claim contemplated two parties using a third-party intermediary, in this case a computer, to create account ledgers (or "shadow accounts," as the patent called them) based on the accounts of both primary parties, determining available versus unavailable funds, calculating a risk for a given set of transactions, and then issuing instructions to the parties telling them what transactions are permitted and what transactions are too risky to engage in.

The patent itself was to "facilitate the exchange of financial obligations between two parties by using a computer system as a third-party intermediary." If this sounds like an abstract business method, that's because it is. Alice Corp.'s patent was basically a claim to mitigating settlement risk by employing a third party on a computer. The intermediary was just the computer in this case. The district court found that the patent was too vague, because it really only contemplated an idea. The Federal Court on first hearing reversed, saying that it wasn't "manifestly evident" that the patent ideas were abstract, so the case should be litigated rather than dismissed on summary judgment. On second hearing en banc (i.e. with all the Federal Circuit judges present, the Federal Circuit changed its position and determined that the method claims were invalid. There was some internal dispute, however, as to whether the system claims -- i.e. a claim over a computer that performs the function -- was valid.

The Supreme Court determined, in an opinion written by Justice Thomas, that both the method and system claims were abstract and therefore invalid. The rule under a cased called Mayo Collaborative Services v. Promethius Labs requires that an abstract idea, to be patentable, must have some practically beneficial application to either the computer system implementing it or to some other kind of technology. For example, it might be common knowledge that plucking a guitar string emanates a harmonic frequency, so I can't patent plucking a guitar string, but if I find a new, beneficial use for plucking a guitar string, such as a patent on plucking guitar strings to encourage the growth and development of plants (yes, it's nonsensical -- I can't invent good, patentable things on the spot!), then I could patent that. Here, though, the court asked "whether the claims at issue here do more than simply instruct the practitioner to implement the abstract idea of intermediated settlement in a generic computer." Laconically, the Court concluded, "They do not."

So what does this mean for software patents? Well they still are valid as more than just math. Though the Court didn't address the issue directly, it has been generally held that software is sufficiently transformative to warrant patentability. While not a favorite opinion here on Slashdot, that's not altogether nonsensical; if software is sufficiently artistic enough to be copyrightable, then it stands to reason that it has been sufficiently transformed from some natural state to warrant patentability as well. That said, algorithms are not patentable. A software claim that only protects against doing specific math, as opposed to being comprised of math, is not valid and will be (and has been) invalidated. What's the difference? You have to take your tech beanies off and look at it from the perspective of very intelligent, but non-technical 60+ year-olds.

What this case does do is extend Bilski to the software world. You couldn't patent an idea. Now it's articulated that you can't patent an idea on a computer. So finally, all of those irate claims we've made about "that's just a patent for doing X on a computer!" has some valid case law supporting it.

Law school graduate, not a lawyer (yet), who works in a patent law firm. This isn't legal advice. Blah, blah.

about 2 months ago

Google Using YouTube Threat As Leverage For Cheaper Streaming Rights

Warhawke This is exactly what musicians want. (197 comments)

I understand that Google-bashing is pretty popular in these comments, but speaking as someone connected to the music industry, this is exactly what musicians have been trying to achieve, though they may not know it. Musicians have (foolishly) been trying to deregulate music licensing to allow for fair market rates, negotiable, as opposed to statutory licensing models currently used. Never mind that the publisher takes a greater share off the top, this is what a fair market rate looks like. Publicity isn't a right; it will either be worth it to musicians or not to accept new licensing terms. If enough say no, then Google's services will be devalued in turn. This is exactly what musicians and songwriters wished for, and now they're getting it.

about 3 months ago

California Legislation Affirms Privacy Rights Against NSA Spying Methods

Warhawke Re:NSA is a Federal Agency (96 comments)

It will slow the Feds down about as much as a mild speed bump would slow down an Abrams tank. State agencies cannot preempt a federal administration's scheme. The DOJ would only need to take California to court for enacting a law that obstructs the general scheme and scope of authority of the National Surveillance Agency, and the law will be struck down as unconstitutional. States cannot issue laws that bind or obstruct federal activities, well-intentioned as those laws may be. This is the same reason Arizona's bill to enforce immigration standards, even though under the same general framework as the national immigration laws, were nevertheless held unconstitutional. You might get it tied up for a few months, but the same could be accomplished by simply having state employees voluntarily refuse to cooperate. It's a feel-good PR law, and perhaps a needed one, but it's clearly unconstitutional under the modern regulatory agency / separation of powers framework.

about 3 months ago

For the First Time Ever, the FAA Is Trying To Fine a Drone Hobbyist

Warhawke Repeating something does not make it true (297 comments)

Pretty much every third comment in this thread has someone claiming that all U.S. airspace falls under the control of the FAA, but that is patently untrue. The FAA, as a regulatory agency, only has the authority that Congress has granted it in the CFR under the FAAA. That authority extends to overseeing the safe operation of interstate aircraft travel. That concept extends the FAA regulation to in-state travel as it reasonable affects interstate travel through U.S. airspace. However, this is not without limitations. The FAA does not control buildings under a certain height, ground operations, municipal airport operations until planes enter federal airspace, and more. Additionally, the FAA does not control non-aircraft. The FAA cannot regulate your vehicle, or a flying bullet, or even an rc flyer. The only regulatory statement ever published about RC (drone) operations is an advisory opinion published in a circular. The industry has self-policed under a different, unofficial ruleset published by the Academy of Model Aeronautics. The FAA, other than through an advisory opinion - which is not authoritative as a rule of law - has never attempted to regulate R.C. operation below 250 feet. Nor did it ever insist that it had the authority to do so. As such, until the FAA issues administrative laws regulating the operation of drones and Congress authorizes those rules, assuming those rules are even constitutional (which they won't be if they promote the same blanket prohibition standards the FAA is applying now), the FAA has absolutely zero authority over recreational drone use and arguably no authority over commercial drone use. Please learn administrative law before posting blanket false statements about what federal agencies can and can't do.

about 4 months ago

Federal Smartphone Kill-Switch Legislation Proposed

Warhawke Re:The Safe Bet Here (173 comments)

It's not about having "a phone" killed. It's about the ability to have phoneS killed. Plural.

No. I intentionally decided against the paranoid option.

What purpose would it serve for the NSA to brick a bunch of phoneS at one time?

Other than making a very big, very public story? Which would get a LOT of airplay in the media.

If the NSA needs service cut in a specific area they can already do that.

You mean like how the installation of clothes-penetrating image scanners wouldn't need to be implemented when dangerous objects can already be better detected by more conventional screens and selected pat-downs? It's for the same reason the U.S. has toyed with the idea of an Internet kill switch and a way to disable cars remotely: when one becomes addicted to power, the ends of power obtained justify the means of obtaining it.

The federal government does not particularly care what temporary effect such measures will have on media and the general public; the ability to do it at all justifies (to them) its implementation.

about 6 months ago

Where Old Hard Disks (with Digital Secrets) Go To Die

Warhawke By 2025 a children's Speak & Spell Could Crack (128 comments)

You can’t hide secrets from the future with math.
You can try, but I bet that in the future they laugh
at the half-assed schemes and algorithms amassed
to enforce cryptographs in the past.

about 7 months ago

Americans To FCC Chair: No Cell Calls On Planes, Please

Warhawke Re:FCC Shouldn't Ban It, But Airlines Should (340 comments)

Time, place, and manner restrictions. If there is something about the location, time, or manner in which the speech is made that is compelling enough to warrant a restriction, the government has the right to restrict such speech. Critics consider this to be a carte blanche to government regulation of content and speech, but it is also what prevents you from violating city noise ordinances and from screaming incessantly in a court room. It also is what creates so-called "speech-free zones." I personally would like to see the issue left in the hands of airline policy, but because airlines are common carriers and there is something compelling about being trapped in an aluminum tube with hundreds of potential chatterboxes, I can definitely see the government believing it has the right to regulate speech to prevent common-law based nuisances.

Case in point, a bill has been proposed to prevent phone use on airplanes despite the FCC's proposed lift on restrictions. The bill is co-sponsored by Lamar Alexander and Dianne Feinstein. Any topic that can get those two muppets to agree and side with one another must be a topic of nuclear concern.

about 7 months ago

Snapchat Users' Phone Numbers Exposed To Hackers

Warhawke Re:Why in God's name... (69 comments)

That may have been true several versions ago, but it isn't true now. Just tried a forensic analysis on my rooted device and it did not recover any .nomedia files (other than ones I had placed in there for other programs). Yes, the data still remains on the drive, but it functions the exact same way as deleting a file using a file manager. The reason forensic analysis is able to recover the data is not because it is readily accessible on the drive but because the actual file information persists on the disk. From the third-to-last paragraph of the article:

The reality is that it is notoriously difficult to remove data from mobile devices simply because of the way data is stored using the 'wear levelling' technique. Since mobile devices are so regularly recycled for newer versions, this means that Snapchat photos that users believe no longer exist may be passed on to unknown third parties, and could be retrieved with forensic software.

about 7 months ago

Snapchat Users' Phone Numbers Exposed To Hackers

Warhawke Re:Why in God's name... (69 comments)

They are deleted the same way that any normal OS deletes a photo -- removing the reference information from the drive header, thus marking the bits the data occupies as safe for rewriting. Until the bits are written over, the file remains intact. There's nothing at all disingenuous about stating the photos are deleted. Perhaps they aren't subject to a null-0 or random data string erasure, but the file is still, by all general computing definitions, deleted. Or do you think that pressing the delete key makes the file on your computer also disappear forever?

about 8 months ago

60% of Americans Unaware of Looming Incandescent Bulb Phase Out

Warhawke Re:So what? (944 comments)

No it isn't. A daylight color LED has an average spectrum output that approximates the bell curve of natural daylight, but use a spectrometer and you'll see that an LED has jagged peaks and dead spots in certain frequencies. You're using multiple colors to approximate a full BBR entity rather than a single filament that can produce across a full spectrum of visible light. An incandescent burns at nearly a perfect bell curve.

I'm not enough of an engineer to know why my friend who works for a power company gets so incensed by the incandescent ban, but he positively goes berserk every time someone brings it up with him. Something about how incandescents soften out the power grid? All I know is that he's said LEDs and CFLs wreak havoc on our local power grid. Not to mention the power efficiency / pollution issues are moot here, since we're all hydroelectric. All this has done for my area is increase groundwater contamination from the CFL in mercury bulbs. Furthermore, this is not the realm of government to force development of new technologies by arbitrarily outlawing old ones. The parable of the broken window is perfectly applicable here.

Slashdot... where we run multiple 600+-watt servers in our homes and then congratulate ourselves for changing our lightbulbs.

about 8 months ago

90 Percent of Businesses Say IP Is "Not Important"

Warhawke Re:Gums up the narrative that IP is for everyone (185 comments)

No, you're missing the whole point of trademark law. Trademark law is supposed to protect against consumer confusion. Let's say the owner of Quickie decides to dump tens of thousands (businesses are expensive) into revamping machines, improving QoS, adding WiFi and a cable subscription, etc. I think this is a dumb assumption because you're assuming Quickie can even afford to invest in better business practices both in terms of start-up costs and in terms of margins based on revenue generated, but let's even put that aside. We'll pretend Quickie can out-compete Quicky through better business practices.

Quicky, on the other hand, runs a dump. One of the machines electrocuted a guy and their dryers burn clothes. The place is a dump. People get robbed in the parking lot.Cynthia's friend Karl is new to the neighborhood and asks her, "Hey Cynthia, I need a good local laundromat. Know any good ones in the area?" She responds, "For the love of God, don't go to Quicky. Those guys are awful." Karl responds, "Quickie is that bad, huh? Okay, I'll avoid them." He then goes to Bumble and Tumble Laundromat a few blocks over.

No matter how much Quickie improves its business, Quicky will always hurt their business by confusing customers into thinking that they are actually Quickie or into thinking that they are the same business. That is why trademark law exists, and protection is surprisingly affordable to most businesses. Registration is only $275 for federal protection. Quickie's battle is not the same as EA, and they don't have to spend the same gobs of money on lawyers and court fees. 1) It's not going to be litigated beyond the trial court, most likely; 2) there aren't gobs of corporate e-mails to pore through in discovery; and 3) the neighborhood IP attorney isn't going to be as expensive because he or she won't have to specialize in that form of law.

about 8 months ago

Warner Bros. Admits To Issuing Bogus Takedowns

Warhawke Point Missed (199 comments)

The issue isn't whether the employee (or computer) is an agent and therefore authorized to file any DMCA claim. The issue is whether the authorized agent sent the notice "in good faith." The conundrum is that fair use does not have a bright line test. WB will claim it has no means of knowing whether a use is fair, so all DMCA claims are in good faith. The problem with this argument is that it doesn't work in pre-internet copyright terms. Early dismissal and summary judgment and counter-damages were common where the plaintiff should have known the use was fair. Basically, the problem is that no one can categorize, legally, whether a use is fair except for a judge, and by then you're eyeballs deep in legal fees.

about 9 months ago


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